The short “a” sound is one of the first sounds that many kids learn to read. It’s also pretty common, so kids get lots of practice! The short “a” sound is the sound at the beginning of the word “ant” and in the middle of the word “cat.” It’s pronounced “ah.” (The long “a” sound, by contrast, is the “a” sound in the word “tape.”)
When you first start teaching short “a” words to your kids, keep it simple! Start with words that have the “a” sound at the beginning (such as “ant,” “add,” and “apple”) so they learn what it sounds like. Once they have the hang of that, they can work on short “a” words that come as the middle sound, like “bat,” “tan,” or “pal.” Finally, you can introduce them to short “a” sounds at the end of words, like in “banana,” “zebra,” and “camera.” For now, stay away from any combined sounds, like the “au” sound in “haul” or the “aw” sound in “lawn.”
Kids will have loads of fun with Red Cat Reading books!Get Your Free Account
So, what should you do to teach the short “a” sound, then? It can be tough to find time to fit phonics in to an already busy life with kids! But it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be a fun way to spend one-on-one time with your kid. Don’t make phonics time into a power struggle or something they “have” to do. Let them enjoy it and have fun, and you’ll have more fun, too.
Here are some fun ways to teach the short “a” sound:
Watch Short “a” Animals
Talk about a couple of different animals whose names start with an “a” sound. Some examples are, “ant,” “alligator,” “anteater,” “antelope,” and “armadillo.” You can talk about where the animals live, what they look like, and what they eat. Look up videos together on YouTube for the different “a” animals. Write down the names of the animals you talk about and point out the letter “a,” that will help your child understand what letter makes the “a” sound.
Taste Short “a” Foods
Try a taste test of different short “a” foods! You could try apples, avocados, almonds, apricots, animal crackers, or applesauce. Depending on the time of year and what kind of foods your kid likes best, you could also try just different types of apples, or just different kinds of foods made from apples (apple cider, apple juice, apple sauce, apple pie, and so on). Just like with the animals, write down the names of the foods you try and point out the “a” at the beginning.
Go for a Short “a” Scavenger Hunt
Take a walk around your house or neighborhood. Have your child try to find as many things as they can that start with a short “a” sound. They may need help telling different beginning vowel sounds apart (like the short “a” sound at the beginning of “arm” versus the short e sound at the beginning of “elbow”). You could even let them take pictures of the different things they find! That way, you can look at the pictures together later and you can show them the word written down.
Read and Sing Together
Of course, this is one of the best and most fun ways to teach reading: read to them! Pick a simple book with lots of short “a” sounds (for example, our Kids vs Phonics Level 1 – “a” book) and read it together. Run your finger along under the words as you read. Sing silly “a” songs together, too (even if you make up all the words!).
Have fun learning together!